Rescue operation in progress Credit: EastMojo image

Shillong: Rescue teams involved in the search operation of the 13 miners who are still trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills achieved the first major breakthrough on Tuesday when pH levels of water samples collected from the accident site, Lytein river and neighbouring mines pointed towards the same source.

This simply implies that the source of water inside the mine is the Lytein river.

However, in such circumstances, personnel involved in the rescue operation will require heavy-duty pumps that can pump out 500 gallons of water per minute. It is said that such pumps are not available in the Northeast. So, the onus is now on the state government.

Meanwhile, relatives of some of the miners who are trapped inside the coal mine have reached the accident site on Tuesday. They demanded the district administration to hand over the “bodies” of their relatives.

Mahendra Khadka Chettri, whose brother-in-law, Bahadur Basneet, is reportedly one of the victims but is officially not on the government’s missing persons’ list, told EastMojo: “One of Basneet’s friends informed me over phone that altogether 18 people were supposed to go inside the mine. Seventeen of them went inside, he was the only one to come out.”

Coming down heavily on the contractor of the ill-fated mine, some of the relatives alleged that he had forced the labourers to go inside the mine.

“Initially, the miners were not in a position to go inside the mine because of the increasing levels of water. All them refused to go inside. However, the contractor forced them to go inside,” said Ali Hussain, brother-in-law of Mominul Islam, who is one of those still missing.

“Miners usually start their duty at 5 in the morning. But that day, after the miners protested, the contractor forced them to go and eventually they entered the mine around 7 am,” Hussain added.

Hussain also criticised the pace of the rescue operation. “The way water is being flushed out here, it will take more than a year to complete the process. The contractor has fled from the scene. Now, whom do we will approach?” he questioned.

“I just want his body. He has a one-year old son at home. Who will take care of his family?” said Rofiot Zaman, who visited the accident site on Tuesday to get updates on his nephew Kalam Shiekh, who is also one of the victims.

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